Democrats have been facing a challenging dilemma in their campaigns, but especially in preparation for tonight’s debates: what problems can they focus on to offer solutions? This question clearly became a challenge for the ten candidates who took the stage for the second night of the second Democratic primary debate, as Democrats’ usual talking points have become borderline useless.
Focusing on a brilliant new health care bill that would only raise taxes on the upper and middle classes while only somewhat lowering quality of care and coverage and rendering private insurance companies illegal? Polling suggests 85 percent of Americans are happy with their private insurance, and only 26 percent actually like Medicare for All.
No worries, Democrats can instead discuss how to fix the failing economy. Wait — the economy is the best it’s been in years, with unemployment at its lowest point since 1969, and job creation on the rise? And 88 percent of Americans think the economy is in a good place? There goes those policies, as Democrats will struggle to justify a shift to socialism when trying to fix a functioning system.
When all else fails, the Democrats can return to their favorite talking point since 2016: President Trump’s alleged collusion with Russia, especially in the wake of Robert Mueller’s condemnatory testimony. Right, Mueller’s testimony did not prove to be the tool for impeachment that it was hyped up to be, but hurt the Democrats and made the entire investigation look foolish and corrupted.
With those shiny topics forced somewhat on the back burner due to the American population downright hating the tentpoles of the Democratic Party’s current platform, you might think that all would be lost, and the candidates would be forced to adopt moderate policies, more in line with what the American people actually want. But the candidates had one more magic policy proposal up their sleeves, which would allow them to be as liberal as they want and still stand a chance.
The favored strategy of the Democratic Party at present seems to be promises to “tax the h-ll out of the wealthy” (to borrow the delicate and polite words of Bill de Blasio) in order to fund government welfare programs. This is not a new or innovative strategy, but one favored by President Obama during his campaigns. And it will alienate a small percentage of the voting base, but engender favor with the rest of the voting population, as it offers the masses something to the cost of the minority.
In so strong an economy, the Democrats need something to run on in order to stand a chance in 2020. Incumbents tend to win, especially when the economy is strong, but the 20 Democrats running for president offer one thing President Trump is not: free stuff, paid for by the taxes of the rich.
Promising to tax the rich will not gain the majority of the votes of those who see a sizable percentage of their income go to the federal government, but the Democrats know this. They do not need that small percentage of the voters, just everyone else, who will be the recipients of all the free services, or, if you’re Andrew Yang, literal money.
With so many candidates talking about the divided country, it may seem odd that they are actively attempting to divide the country on class lines. However, it is the only policy proposal by the current Democratic field that is actually popular with voters, as 76 percent believe the wealthiest Americans should pay more in taxes.
The only other possible strategy, it appears, is calling Trump a racist, something 51 percent of voters believe. The candidates must be aware of these statistics, as they spent the majority of the debate pivoting to references to Trump being a racist, even when it had nothing to do with the question. These accusations, while serious, are nothing new, and are the same critiques laid by Hillary Clinton in 2016. Maybe it’s not such a good strategy after all.
If this debate felt as boring to you as it did for me, that may be because hardly anything new was actually said. Even the interesting skirmishes between candidates were on their historical records and their pasts, not anything recent. I earnestly hope that the race becomes more about finding solutions to the actual problems in our country, not manufacturing issues to push a partisan agenda. If not, the presidential race will remain stuck in the past, just like the debate.